Car washes soak our landscape
Here at Just Wright Citrus we’re paid big money to ask the tough questions.
What’s the deal with all these car washes springing up? Is this our new norm? Did Citrus County somehow land on the car wash map and now we’ll be known as the car wash capital?
I can see it now…cartoon billboards of manatees frolicking in the suds.
Forget tourists and sales tax. The wise commissioner is one who gets car washes to pay for repaving neighborhood streets.
I guess the business model is simple. The county is growing, we all have cars, the cars get dirty and need washing. And apparently the dirt is so, um, dirty here in Citrus that I not only need a place to wash my car, I need a monthly subscription so that I may wash my car at any time without the bother of whatever bother exists at a car wash.
Still…let’s all admit we’re a little disappointed when we see a big empty lot and a “Dan’s Super Suds Car Extravaganza — Coming Soon!” sign fronting the highway.
(By the way, mini-rant for us Inverness folks. We need a Wawa. Ridiculous I need to drive to Lecanto or Crystal River for a black/white Wawa shake. Someone get on that right away.)
What makes me such an expert on car washes? Other than getting one (occasionally), actual work experience.
It was Troy, Michigan at the Marathon gas station-car wash owned by Bob Rashad, who paid us eager 18-year-olds with cash every week. It was because of this job that I went to college to become a journalist.
I worked that job four years full- and part-time and it left quite an impression. Mainly that I didn’t want to work at a car wash if I could avoid it. These places are crazy busy in the winter and just about the last place I want to spend 8 hours is outside in 20-degree weather where it’s wet.
This was a true car wash. Put the car in neutral, sit back and relax while it’s gently glided through the wash. And none of those sissy “brushless” brushes. No, this was a car wash workout.
Oh, the stories I could tell. But I won’t because they’re, you know, car wash stories. Someone taking their car out of neutral and driving through the thing was about the height of our excitement.
All these years later, car washes still catch my eye.
And no more so than now. Every major intersection in Citrus County and some of the minor ones have now or will have some mega car wash. They're not architectural giants. The one at S.R. 44/U.S. 19, next to Wawa, is gaudy as heck. I like gaudy but even I wouldn’t want that thing in my living room.
Nothing against car washes, but is it our aim business?
Fifteen years ago the dollar store bunch put their sites on Citrus and, as you see during any 10-minute drive, they succeeded in turning our community into a thriving dollar store paradise. That’s why the Target announcement was so shocking. Wasn’t this the same company that turned us down back then because we were Dollar/Walmart shoppers?
I guess the question is, where does this car wash phenomenon fit? Is it a thumbs up for Citrus or a thumbs down that we attract car wash developers? Are our residents crying out for more subscription car washes than ever before and this fits a particular (peculiar) need?
The Inverness Car Wash, which went out of business not long after the Caliber Car Wash opened right next door on S.R. 44, was an oldie but goodie. We’re losing a lot of older local places for these new fancy duds, and it doesn’t really matter whether I like it or not, that’s our reality.
No more complaints about driving to Brooksville or Ocala for shopping or eating. It’ll all be here, within our confines, as this county transitions from semi-rural to mostly urban.
And if that’s not enough, just know you won’t have to travel more than a few minutes for a clean car.
Citrus County. We’ll wipe the hubcaps.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.